John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
It is not enough to do good; one must do it the right way.

The Right Honorable John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn, OM PC (24 December 1838 – 23 September 1923) was a British Liberal statesman, writer and newspaper editor.




  • The extreme advanced party is likely for the future to have on its side a great portion of the most highly cultivated intellect in the nation, and the contest will lie between brains and numbers on the one side, and wealth, rank, vested interest, possession in short, on the other.
    • ‘Young England and the Political Future’, The Fortnightly Review, No. XXXVIII (1 January 1867), pp. 491–492
  • The new problem for statesmen will be not how the Queen's Government may be carried on, but how the National Will may be most promptly executed.
    • ‘The Liberal Programme’, The Fortnightly Review, No. IX (1 September 1867), pp. 363
  • If we survey the entire field of political action, we shall find that progress, wherever it is stayed, is stayed by the untimely relics of territorialism, and that in removing them we at once find ourselves led on to the true conditions by taking the policy of industry for our foundation. The industrial policy is emphatically the national policy... At nearly every point it is the superstition or sinister interest of the territorial power which thwarts, restrains, and depresses the harmonious adjustment of laws and administration to the needs of the public well-being.
    • ‘The Liberal Programme’, The Fortnightly Review, No. IX (1 September 1867), pp. 367–368
  • There is the Irish question... Underneath the surface of this, and wrapped up in it, are nearly all the controversies of principle which will agitate the political atmosphere for our time. It is a microcosm of the whole imperial question. It is the test of our fitness to deal with the other problems which modern circumstance, pressing hard against the old order of ideas and traditions, is forcing upon our attention. The functions of the State, the duties of property, the rights of labour, the question whether the many are born for the few, the question of a centralised imperial power, the question of the pre-eminence of morals in politics—all these things lie in Irish affairs.
    • 'Old Parties and New Policy', The Fortnightly Review, No. XXI (1 September 1868), p. 327
  • It is not for the candidates, but for the temper shown by the constituencies, that one may grieve, if there be matter for grief in the unmistakable proof which the elections are furnishing, that people do not recognise the necessity of giving supreme political power to supreme political intelligence.
    • 'Old Parties and New Policy', The Fortnightly Review, No. XXI (1 September 1868), p. 330


  • The evils of a military system, which, after all, every day must attenuate, are light compared with the evils of an anarchic conservatism reinstated in central Europe. Divided Germany means preponderating Russia. What can be more desirable in the interests of the highest civilisation than the interposition in the heart of the European state-system, of a powerful, industrious, intelligent, and progressive people, between the western nations and the half-barbarous Russian swarms? To the careful observer of the history of modern Europe it is plain that increasing vigour and self-conscious strength in Germany are other words for the spread eastwards of the best of those ideas, the most durable of those civilising elements, in which the difference of historic development has enabled England and France to anticipate her.
    • ‘France and Germany’, The Fortnightly Review, No. XLV (1 September 1870), pp. 370–371
  • In the American civil war partisanship with the sides there was the veil of a kind of civil war here. An unspoken instinct revealed to mutually hostile classes in England that their battle also was being fought in the contest between the free North and the slave-holding South. The triumph of the North, as has been often remarked, was the force that made English liberalism powerful enough to enfranchise the workmen, depose official Christianity in Ireland, and deal a first blow at the landlords.
    • ‘England and the War’, The Fortnightly Review, No. XLVI (1 October 1870), p. 479
  • I shall not flinch if they decapitate or flagellate all the bishops and curés in Paris.
  • Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.
  • Household suffrage as yet is only a thing on paper. We have still to feel its reality. The new possessors of power are still hardly aware that it is theirs. And who are the new possessors of power? The skilled artisans, the leaders of trade societies, and the like? Alas, no; it is not they but those below them, those between the artisan and the pauper, who, whenever they choose to awake, or whenever they choose in their dreams to let somebody else lead them, hold the destinies of our society in their hands.
    • 'The Struggle for National Education. III', The Fortnightly Review, No. LXXXII (1 October 1873), p. 420
  • In plain English, a majority of those who come out of the schools cannot read a newspaper. This unfortunate class is our ruling class. Their votes can carry elections, change administrations, decide policies. As yet they have no initiative, and it may be some time before they cease to follow the initiative of others. When their time comes, and a leader, they will make terrible short work with a good deal that you hold precious now.
    • 'The Struggle for National Education. III', The Fortnightly Review, No. LXXXII (1 October 1873), p. 420
  • The sophists of newspaper press are so busily fighting momentous practical issues with the lath sword of some little abstract theory, that they have no eyes for the gulf which is ready to open at the feet of them and the institutions which they so absurdly suppose themselves to be defending... They do not discern that the same classes who are now believed to be on the point of following the publicans and the clergy to the polls...are one day very likely to invent cries of their own, that will bring destruction where the abused reformer to-day only seeks improvement, and, where we only seek to amend, will trample, efface, obliterate.
    • 'The Struggle for National Education. III', The Fortnightly Review, No. LXXXII (1 October 1873), p. 421
  • Evolution is not a force but a process; not a cause but a law.
  • You have not converted a man, because you have silenced him.
  • Do let us try to give a national, not a class tone to English politics .
    • Letter (May 1874), quoted in F. W. Hirst, Early Life & Letters of John Morley, Volume I (1927), p. 300
  • If the country does best, where State action is least, you at least require political effort enough to reduce those noxious forms of State action which have come down to us from the imprudence of pre-scientific days. The philosopher, for example, who is most in earnest for the free play of social forces, is bound before all other men to press on for the disestablishment of the State Church.
    • 'The Liberal Eclipse', The Fortnightly Review, No. XCVIII (1 February 1875), pp. 298-299
  • Germany is the power in whose strength, prosperity, and vigorous government, Europe has the most vital interest, because she is the Power best able from her position to deal with Russia.
    • ‘Home and Foreign Affairs’, The Fortnightly Review, No. CXXI. New Series (1 January 1877), p. 139

Rousseau (1876)

  • Those who would treat politics and morality apart will never understand the one or the other.
  • You cannot demonstrate an emotion or prove an aspiration.
  • It is not enough to do good; one must do it the right way.


  • I'm all against your “autoritaire”. I don't believe in it, and I never did. Your Cromwells and Fredericks don't do their work half as well as slow sober free American citizens.
    • Letter to Joseph Chamberlain (17 June 1883), quoted in D. A. Hamer, Lord Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (1968), p. 56
  • Yet the Opposition refused to extend the franchise unless they were assured that there would be some manipulation or re-arrangement of seats, which, would, in fact, be taking away with one hand what was given with the other. He regretted that proportional representation should have been introduced into the debate from that side of the House, for all these schemes were but new disguises for the old Tory distrust of the people.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 April 1884)
  • Should they, whose forefathers would not endure the tyranny and misgovernment of kings, submit to the oppression and stupidity of peers? (Loud cheers.) The presence of an hereditary Chamber, which was, in fact, not much more at this moment than a Tory club with the power of unlimited veto in a free Government, was nothing more than a very bad practical joke... That great pile of Durham Cathedral had stood for eight centuries. Many a struggle had it witnessed in all these long years between feudalism and humanity, between the privileged few and the toiling multitude. In spite of many a gloomy hour the cause of humanity had conquered; it was conquering still, and if they were true to one another before many months were past they would have added another and a most glorious victory to those achievements of the past. (Loud cheers.)
    • Speech to the Durham Miners Association (5 July 1884), quoted in The Times (7 July 1884), p. 7
  • Yes, gentlemen, be sure that no power on earth can separate henceforth the question of mending the House of Commons from the other question of mending or ending the House of Lords. (Loud cheers, the whole assembly rising and waving their hats.)
    • Speech to a conference of Liberal delegates in St. James's Hall (30 July 1884), quoted in The Times (31 July 1884), p. 7
  • [W]ill any one tell me what there is to venerate in the House of Lords? (Laughter and cheers.) Will any one tell me when in the great battle of freedom they have been on the side of freedom and justice? (Cheers.) Will they tell me when they have not been against it? (“Always.”) ... Who will talk of the ripe wisdom of an assembly which resists without courage, and obstructs without straightforwardness; which asserts without approval, and gives way without conviction? (Loud cheers.) ... [I]f we have to consider a second rejection of this Bill the Liberal party will borrow an amendment of the Tory party with a slight variation, and propose, “No treatment of Parliamentary reform is satisfactory which does not include the reform of the hereditary Chamber.” (Prolonged cheers.)
    • Speech to a conference of Liberal delegates in St. James's Hall (30 July 1884), quoted in The Times (31 July 1884), p. 7
  • Natural rights’...[is not] a true way of putting things—and certainly not the most useful and fertile way. Nature [is] simply the mastery of the strongest [and confers no rights on man]. Two savage tribes contend for a tract of land of wh. they are in need for their subsistence: nature gave the right to this land to the tribe wh. was strong enough to thrash the other. No right is worth a straw apart from the good that it brings: and all claims to rights must depend—not upon nature—but upon the good that the said rights are calculated to bring to the greatest number. General utility, public expediency, the greatest happiness of the greatest number—these are the tests and standards of a right; not the dictate of nature.
    • Letter to Joseph Chamberlain after Chamberlain delivered a speech in which he said that the propertied classes must pay a ‘ransom’ for holding property in violation of ‘natural rights’ (6 January 1885), quoted in D. A. Hamer, Lord Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (1968), p. 153
  • Some think that we are approaching a critical moment in the history of Liberalism... We hear of a divergence of old Liberalism and new... The terrible new school, we hear, are for beginning operations by dethroning Gladstonian finance. They are for laying hands on the sacred ark. But did any one suppose that the fiscal structure which was reared in 1853 was to last for ever, incapable of improvement, and guaranteed to need no repair? ... Another heresy is imputed to this new school which fixes a deep gulf between the wicked new Liberals and the virtuous old. We are adjured to try freedom first before we try interference of the State. That is a captivating formula, but it puzzles me to find that the eminent statesman who urges us to lay this lesson to heart is strongly in favour of maintaining the control of the State over the Church? But is State interference an innovation? I thought that for 30 years past Liberals had been as much in favour as other people of this protective legislation... [O]ther countries have tried freedom and it is just because we have decided that freedom in such a case is only a fine name for neglect, and have tried State supervision, that we have saved our industrial population from the waste, destruction, destitution, and degradation that would otherwise have overtaken them... In short, gentlemen, I am not prepared to allow that the Liberty and the Property Defence League are the only people with a real grasp of Liberal principles, that Lord Bramwell and the Earl of Wemyss are the only Abdiels of the Liberal Party.
    • Annual presidential address to the Junior Liberal Association of Glasgow (10 February 1885), quoted in The Times (11 February 1885), p. 10
  • I hope...Her Majesty's Ministers...will...say that the Soudan must be left to its own people to work out their own deliverance in their own fashion.
  • And we are so often reminded, Sir, of the villainy of the character of the Irish nation, that I rejoice to be able to bring these facts forward. The whole of this Bill is based on the theory that the Irish people are incorrigible. The Commissioners have put upon public record that the Irish people are naturally honest, hard-working, and deeply attached to their country. And I say, Sir, that a man of this kind who makes such a sacrifice—and there are thousands of them in Ireland—excites my pity quite as much—as the victim of a moonlighting outrage. I say I am less anxious—anxious as I am—to secure vengeance upon 100 or 200 ruffians than I am to secure rightful and humane treatment for the thousands of poor tenants in Ireland. There is the difference between Gentlemen opposite and us on this side of the House.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (22 March 1887)
  • But are you so sure...that when Ulster, or the corner of Ulster knows that Great Britain has made up its mind that there is to be an effective, a real self-government in Ireland—are you so sure Ulster will turn its back upon Ireland and claim to be excluded from such Government? (“No.”) I do not believe it... I say that a good deal of this zeal for Ulster is artificial.
    • Speech to the National Reform Union in Manchester (6 July 1887), quoted in The Times (7 July 1887), p. 7
  • I half wrote a discourse on modern democracy, how the rule of numbers is to be reconciled with the rule of sage judgment, and the passion for liberty and equality is to be reconciled with sovereign regard for law, authority, and order; and how our hopes for the future are to be linked to wise reverence for tradition and the past.
    • 'Aphorisms', an address delivered before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institutions (11 November 1887), quoted in John Morley, Studies in Literature (1901), p. 54
  • We are told by a Lord of the Admiralty who represents a Sheffield division that it is all over with the old Manchester school, and that we have got into new days. I do not belong to the Manchester school. I have nothing to say about the Manchester school except this—that I chanced to write the life of a very important leader of that school. and what did Mr. Cobden say upon this very point? He said:—"I am willing to spend a hundred millions on the fleet if necessary". The Radical party have never been the party who denied the great proposition that lies at the bottom of British politics—namely, that we must have absolute supremacy at sea.
    • Speech to a Liberal demonstration in Sheffield (22 January 1889), quoted in The Times (23 January 1889), p. 10
  • We are told that we are a pack of Socialists and faddists, and that common sense is on the side of the Unionist party. Well, for my part, I am for going in for all progressive legislation step by step. I do not believe in the short cuts. If Socialism means the abolition of private property, if it means the assumption of land and capital by the State, if it means an equal distribution of products of labour by the State, then I say that Socialism of that stamp, communism of that stamp, is against human nature, and no sensible man will have anything to say to it. But if it means a wise use of the forces of all for the good of each, if it means a legal protection of the weak against the strong, if it means the performance by public bodies of things which individuals cannot perform so well, or cannot perform at all, then the principles of Socialism have been admitted in almost the whole field of social activity already, and all we have to ask when any proposition is made for the further extension of those principles is whether the proposal is in itself a prudent, just, and proper means to the desired end, and whether it is calculated to do good, and more good than harm.
    • Speech to the Home Counties Division of the National Liberal Federation (13 February 1889), quoted in The Times (14 February 1889), p. 6
  • [S]o far as sick pay is concerned, I do not see how the State is to be responsible for the payment of...sick pay, how the State is to be able to exercise that efficient control over what is known as malingering, feigning sickness, though the friendly societies are able to do so.
    • Speech in Newcastle (22 April 1889), quoted in The Times (23 April 1889), p. 8
  • I confess that I am in favour, if we can, of sticking to the old system by which you yourselves shall use your own judgment and your own energy in order to cultivate the virtue of thrift, and in order to see that thrift is rewarded... I cannot conceive a more important virtue to cultivate than this of thrift.
    • Speech in Newcastle (22 April 1889), quoted in The Times (23 April 1889), p. 8


  • I am not going to enter into this chapter, but you all know that this which is called—I do not much like the name, but I confess I have not a better name—"State Socialism" is what has protected us from revolutionary socialism, which is much a worse thing. Probably a considerable portion of this audience consists of men who live on weekly wages; but I ask you not to rush at the first thing that is offered you, not to believe that because a thing sounds very pleasant—like compulsory reduction, for example, of the hours of labour—do not be quite sure until you have looked round it that it may not end in leaving your condition worse than it found it. I should deplore the advance of State Socialism, though I believe much may be hoped from it. I should regard it as a great disaster, the greatest disaster that could befall this great population, if it did anything to take away your self-reliance, the control of the individual over his own appetites and passions, his own idleness and self-indulgence, and make you look to anything but self-reliance. This, in the long run, would do more harm than good.
    • Speech at Rochdale town hall (23 April 1890), quoted in The Times (24 April 1890), p. 6
  • I myself am no opponent of State intervention. I have never been, and never shall be, as soon as it is shown to me that State intervention can achieve some good end which cannot be reached without it. And I hope that opinion will soon turn in the direction of municipal intervention in these affairs, wherever municipal intervention is adequate, and I will tell you why...I believe that in municipalities the area of supervision is sufficiently small, that people concerned come up in sufficiently close quarters with the matters of administration to enable them to avoid all the dangers, risks, and wastes to which the general state of capitals is open.
    • Speech to the annual meeting of the National Liberal Federation (20 November 1890), quoted in The Times (21 November 1890), p. 10
  • According to my observation, the change in my own generation is different. They have ceased either to trust or to distrust liberty, and have come to the mind that it matters little either way. Men are disenchanted. They have got what they wanted in the days of their youth, yet what of it, they ask?
    • Remarks to William Ewart Gladstone (27 December 1891), quoted in John Morley, The Life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume III (1903), p. 475
  • [T]here is nothing that the most prominent men in the Liberal party more earnestly desire than that labour representation, direct labour representation, shall be as large as possible... It is sometimes said to me, "Oh! but you are against State intervention in matters of great social reform". At this time of the day it would be absurd for any man who has mastered all the Mining Regulations Acts, the Factories Acts, the great mass of regulation which affects trade; it would be absurd for any man to stand on a platform and say he was entirely against State intervention. I, for my part, have never taken that position... My own belief is that in the matters of hours and of wages for adult male labour the interference would be a bad and mischievous thing...that in such matters, for example, as housing of the poor and so forth, the proper machinery through which to carry out these operations is municipal and not Parliamentary.
    • Speech at Huddersfield (21 May 1892), quoted in The Times (23 May 1892), p. 7
  • I have always been strong for a large increase of labour representation in the House of Commons... Now, I dare say the day may come—it may come sooner than some think—when the Liberal party will be transformed or superseded by some new party; but before the working population of this country have their destinies in their own hands, as they will assuredly do within a measurable distance of time, there is enough ground to be cleared which only the Liberal party is capable of clearing. The ideal of the Liberal party is that view of things which believes that the welfare of all is bound up with injustice being done to none. Above all, according to the ideal of the Liberal party—that party from which I beseech you, not for my sake, but for your own, not to sever yourselves—the ideal of the Liberal party is this—that in the mass of the toilers on land all the fountains of national life abide and the strongest and most irresistible currents flow.
    • Speech in Newcastle (21 May 1894), quoted in The Times (22 May 1894), p. 11
  • I said years ago that I would rather be the man who helped on a rational scheme which should secure the comfort of old age than I would be a general who had won ever so many victories in the field. These are, to me, the two most tragic sights in the world—a man who is able to work, and anxious to work, and who cannot get work; and the other tragic sight is that of a man who has worked until his eyes have become dim, and his natural force has become abated, and he is left to spend the declining years of a life that has been so nobly used, so honourably used, in straits, difficulties, and hardships.
    • Speech in Manchester (4 July 1895), quoted in The Times (5 July 1895), p. 10
  • I want to take in all these labour questions from the largest possible nationalist point of view, and it is this—that while the State should do all that it prudently can to protect the health and life, not only of women and children, but of the whole assembly of workers, it is absurd, it is perilous to thrust Acts of Parliament, as I have said before, like the steam ram-rod into the delicate machinery of commercial undertakings.
    • Speech at Newcastle (2 December 1895), quoted in The Times (3 December 1895), p. 6
  • It was often asked how it was that Scotland was a democratic country. He believed that the root causes of the spirit of democracy in its truest and highest sense still prevailed and would prevail in Scotland. Some said that the Scottish people were democrats because of John Knox and the parish schools; some said it was due to Burns, who was the truest democrat who ever wrote a verse; some said it was the Presbyterian form of ecclesiastical organisation. He would be content with the result that, somehow or other, there was in that part of the island a sort of reservoir of democratic man-to-man feeling which they hardly found in any other part of the United Kingdom.
    • Speech in the city hall in Brechin, Montrose Burghs (5 February 1896), quoted in The Times (6 February 1896), p. 7
  • We all know that the besetting danger of Churches is formalism; the besetting danger of State action, of corporate action, is officialism and mechanism; and we all know that it is a drawback to many modern ideals that they rest upon materialism and a soulless secularism.
    • Speech opening the Passmore Edwards Settlement (12 February 1898), quoted in The Times (14 February 1898), p. 12
  • Imperialism brings with it militarism, and must bring with it militarism. Militarism means a gigantic expenditure, daily growing. It means an increase in government of the power of aristocratic and privileged classes. Militarism means the profusion of the taxpayer's money everywhere except in the taxpayer's own home. And militarism must mean is not the hateful demon of war but white-winged peace that has been the nurse and guardian of freedom and justice and well-being over that great army of toilers upon whose labours, upon whose privations, upon whose hardships after all the greatness and the strength of Empires and of States are founded and are built up.
    • Speech in the city hall in Brechin, Montrose Burghs (17 January 1899), quoted in The Times (18 January 1899), p. 6
  • I freely recognise that it would be most stupid not to recognise that there is a sense in which the word imperialism is used in the sense of national duty, not national vainglory, in which it is used as meaning not aggression but the service of mankind... Imperialism in this higher and better sense must be tested and measured and limited by common sense and the Liberal party will only be useful as an instrument of human progress so long as they walk persistently and steadfastly in the path of these watchwords—peace, economy, and reform. If the Liberal party abandon that path, what will they be but a body without a soul?
    • Speech in the city hall in Brechin, Montrose Burghs (17 January 1899), quoted in The Times (18 January 1899), p. 6
  • You may carry fire and sword into the midst of peace and industry—such a war of the strongest Government in the world against this weak little Republic, and the strongest Government in the world, with untold wealth and inexhaustible resources, will bring you no glory. (Renewed and prolonged cheering.) It will bring you no profit but mischief, and it will be wrong. (Hear, hear.) You may make thousands of women widows and thousands of children fatherless. It will be wrong. (Cheers.) You may add a new province to your Empire. It will still be wrong. (Renewed cheers.) You may give greater buoyancy to the South African stock and share market. (Hear, hear.) You may create South African booms. You may send the price of Mr. Rhodes's Chartereds up to the point beyond the dream of avarice. Yes, even then it will be wrong. (Loud and continued cheering.)
    • Speech against the Boer War delivered to a meeting of the Transvaal Committee of Manchester and Liverpool in St. James's-hall, Manchester (15 September 1899), quoted in The Times (16 September 1899), p. 8


  • Had they thought of the relations between Imperialism and social reform? Could we continue this process of territorial expansion with our increasing Budgets? What we wanted was resolute and sustained attention to strengthening our industrial position. What was the use of conquering new markets when it was as much as we could do to hold the markets which we had already? (Cheers.) As to the Liberal policy...the day when the Liberal party forsook its old principles of peace, economy, and reform the Liberal party would have to disband and to disappear. (Cheers.) The Socialists would take its place... [I]f he were to choose between the Socialist and the Militarist, with all his random aims, his profusion of national resources, his disregard for the rights and feelings of other people, he himself declared he considered the Socialist's standards were higher and their means were no less wise. (Cheers.)
    • Speech to the Palmerston Club, Oxford (9 June 1900), quoted in The Times (11 June 1900), p. 3
  • The conference of railway men will damage us gravely with the middle class, for railways are the middle class investment, and to pull profits they admit to be the effect of their demand—will frighten people. And if anybody thinks we can govern this country against the middle class, he is wrong.
    • Letter to Henry Fowler (30 September 1906), quoted in Edith Henrietta Fowler, The Life of Henry Hartley Fowler: First Viscount Wolverhampton, G.C.S.I. (1912), p. 505
  • I am as cautious a Whig as any Elliot, Russell, or Grey, that was ever born.
    • Letter to Lord Minto (30 November 1906), quoted in D. A. Hamer, Lord Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (1968), p. 293
  • I have often thought that Strafford was an ideal type, both for governor of Ireland in the 17th century, and governor of India in the 20th century.
    • Letter to Lord Minto (19 September 1907), quoted in D. A. Hamer, Lord Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (1968), p. 56
  • I submit that it is an Agreement that this country may not only be contented with, but proud of.
  • Define it as we may, faith in Progress has been the mainspring of Liberalism in all its schools and branches.
    • ‘Democracy and Reaction’, Miscellanies: Fourth Series (1908), p. 293
  • [I] always had a soft place in my heart for the patrician Whigs.
    • Letter to Lord Minto (1 October 1908), quoted in D. A. Hamer, Lord Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (1968), p. 293
  • I am, and always have been, a pretty strong individualist.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (29 November 1909), quoted in The Times (30 November 1909), p. 6


  • I am a theorist, but I detest the introduction of abstract principles into the great practical difficulties of this nation.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (24 November 1910)
  • There has been a great deal of talk about raising class prejudice. I dislike class prejudice... There has been no feeling of class prejudice in my mind; but, my Lords, there is a worse thing than class prejudice, and that is race or national prejudice. We have not had much of it, in fact I may say almost none of it, here. Still is it not true that the cry which is going to be loudly invoked in this election, the Irish cry, depends upon race and national prejudice? Talk of class prejudice. The classes will take care of themselves, I trust. The English working man in my view—and I represented a great and important group of them for many years—is not in the least a Phrygian with a red cap, though some of his fellows may talk in that vein.
  • Whether France or Italy or Germany or England has made the greatest contribution in the history of modern civilisation—however that speculative controversy may be settled, this at least is certain, that those are not wrong who hold that Germany's high and strict standard of competency, the purity and vigour of her administration of affairs, her splendid efforts and great success in all branches of science, her glories—for glories they are—in art and literature, and the fixed strength of character and duty in the German people entitle her national ideals to a supreme place among the greatest-ideals that now animate and guide the world. Do not let us forget all that. German ambition is a perfectly intelligible and even lofty ambition.
  • History, as Treitschke contends, is first of all the presentation of res gestae, and of active statesmen. The essential things in the statesman are strength of will, courage, massive ambition, passionate joy in the result. It needs no wizard to see how such doctrine as this lends a hand to the sinister school of political historians, who insist that the event is its own justification; that Force and Right are one.
    • ‘Politics and History’, Address as Chancellor of the University of Manchester (summer 1912), quoted in The Works of Lord Morley: Volume IV (1921), p. 33
  • The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, stated that he could not understand how it is that we, the Party who have always taken the side of people rightly struggling to be free, do not sympathise with Ulster. In all the cases that he named—Italy, Greece, and so forth—there was actual oppression and hateful misgovernment. No one says there is actual oppression or hateful misgovernment in Ulster. It is all hypothesis.
  • The decrepitude that ended in the Latin conquest of Constantinople at the beginning of the thirteenth century, and the Mahometan conquest in the middle of the fifteenth, is an awkward reproof to the optimist superstition that civilized communities are universally bound somehow or another to be progressive.
    • Notes on Politics and History: A University Address (1914), p. 90
  • I was always opposed to the Anglo-Russian agreement—so was Kitchener. Who stands most to gain out of this war? Russia. Who is the real aggressor? Russia. At the end of it we shall have her on our backs. What do you imagine will be the effect on the Indian mind of the employment of Indian troops against Europeans?
    • Remarks to John Hartman Morgan (13 September 1914), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 42
  • Censorship...ought to be confined to the temporary suppression of military and naval news which might assist the enemy... Public opinion might be fallible, but it was not half as fallible as individual opinion, and, good or bad, the Government had to lean upon it; how could they do that unless public opinion had full, free, and correct information as to facts?
    • Speech in the House of Lords (3 November 1915), quoted in The Times (4 November 1915), p. 9
  • I'm sick of Wilson ... He hailed the Russian Revolution six months ago as the new Golden Age, and I said to Page, “What does he know of Russia?” to which Page replied, “Nothing.” As for his talk about a union of hearts after the war, the world is not made like that.
    • Remarks to John Hartman Morgan (15 February 1918), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 92
  • A mirage, and an old one... One may as well talk of London morality being due to the Archbishop of Canterbury. But take away Scotland Yard!
    • Answer to John Hartman Morgan, who asked him what he thought of the League of Nations (15 February 1918), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 92
  • I have not read it, and I don't intend to read it. It's not worth the paper it's written on. To the end of time it'll always be a case of “Thy head or my head.” I've no faith in these schemes.
    • Answer to John Hartman Morgan, who asked him what he thought of the Covenant of the League of Nations (1919), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 91
  • Liberalism, as we have known it, is dead beyond resurrection.
    • Remarks to John Hartman Morgan (6 May 1919), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 99
  • As for progress, what signs of it are there now? And all we Victorians believed in it from the Utilitarians onwards.
    • Remarks to John Hartman Morgan (end of 1919), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 37

Recollections (1917)

  • There are some books which cannot be adequately reviewed for twenty or thirty years after they come out.
    • Vol. I, bk. 2, ch. 8.
  • The proper memory for a politician is one that knows what to remember and what to forget.
    • Vol. II, bk. 4, ch. 2.
  • In my creed, waste of public money is like the sin against the Holy Ghost.
    • Vol. II, bk. 5, ch. 3.
  • Success depends on three things: who says it, what he says, how he says it; and of these three things, what he says is the least important.
    • Vol. II, bk. 5, ch. 4.
  • Excess of severity is not the path to order. On the contrary, it is the path to the bomb.
    • Vol. II, bk. 5, ch. 4.


  • I don't like that hateful heresy, proportional representation.
    • Remarks to John Hartman Morgan (13 July 1920), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 95
  • Ireland and Russia are the two most ‘Christian’ countries in Europe. To-day they are the most disfigured by violence and outrage. What do you make of that?
    • Remarks to John Hartman Morgan (July 1920), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 51
  • I should like to have been there if only to have got up and said, “If Mr. G.'s Home Rule Bill had been passed 30 years ago could Ireland have been worse than it is now? Would it not have been better?” And then fallen dead like Lord Chatham.
    • Remarks to John Hartman Morgan on the House of Lords' debate on the Irish Home Rule Bill (6 January 1921), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 51
  • Montagu calls himself my disciple. I see very little of my teaching in him. This dyarchy won't work. As for his strange plea for rousing the masses of India out of their “pathetic content” by reforms for which they do not ask, and which they cannot work, it's a most unwise remark. My reforms were quite enough for a generation at least.
    • Remarks to John Hartman Morgan on the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms (21 January 1921), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 21
  • Let us look at the history of Ireland, the history of this chronic government by coercion. What does it mean? It was the naked government of another Kingdom by irresponsible force—irresponsible, that is to say, as regards those whom this system was to affect. Coercion Laws were passed, and were smoothly, described as being for the protection of life and property, of respect for ordinary law, and so on. All those methods proved an ugly failure.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (14 December 1921)
  • My only consolation has been to read up the history of Ireland in Lecky and our abominable treatment of her. All the faults of the Irish character are traceable to that.
    • Remarks to John Hartman Morgan (22 December 1921), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 52
  • Present party designations have become empty of all contents...Vastly extended State expenditure, vastly increased demands from the taxpayer who has to provide the money, social reform regardless of expense, cash exacted from the taxpayer already at his wits' end—when were the problems of plus and minus more desperate? How are we to measure the use and abuse of industrial organization? Powerful orators find "Liberty" the true keyword, but the I remember hearing from a learned student that of "liberty" he knew well over two hundred definitions. Can we be sure that the "haves" and the "have-nots" will agree in their selection of the right one? We can only trust to the growth of responsibility; we may look to circumstances and events to teach their lesson.
    • Letter to Sir Francis Webster, president of the Montrose Burghs Liberal Association, quoted in The Times (11 May 1923), p. 12.

Quotes about John Morley

  • Finished Morley. A book worth having read. J.M.'s style at 80 is as bad as his style when Secretary for India was admirable. Doubt whether I can recover my sense of judicial appreciation after reading contemptuous reference by him to Keir Hardie. That reference, suggesting as it does that men, and parties and even the common people were but objects for comment and ways and means to experience intellectual and spiritual, destroys my hopes of genuine admiration. And yet he was something of a great head both to oppressed India and Ireland. Perhaps deep social resentment and revolutionary ardour take the form of aesthetic restlessness in a mind like J.M.'s.
    • Clifford Allen, diary entry (7 February 1918), quoted in Martin Gilbert, Plough My Own Furrow: The Story of Lord Allen of Hurtwood as told through his own writings and correspondence (1965), p. 107
  • This is not a tragedy, but it means the disappearance of the last survivor of the heroic age. He was my first political mentor, and for more than fifty years a wise counsellor, the best of comrades, and in these last years an unfailing and devoted revered friend. Only last week I had from him an affectionate letter which I shall always treasure. English literature and the great traditions of public life are impoverished by his loss.
    • H. H. Asquith, tribute to Morley (23 September 1923), quoted in The Times (24 September 1923), p. 12
  • As for Morley, he was never a good speaker, but he is a brilliant conversationalist. His fault in politics is that he's too negative.
    • Arthur Balfour's remarks to John Hartman Morgan (31 August 1919), quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 102
  • Since the death of Mr. Bradlaugh Mr. Morley was the most powerful exponent of individualism in the country... [E]very sensible man who had the future social welfare of his class at heart must be utterly opposed to Mr. Morley, who set his face against the collective ownership of land, the State ownership of railways, a legal eight hours day, and other questions of social legislation that would be useful to the community of workers.
    • Pete Curran, speech to the independent labour party in Newcastle (15 July 1892), quoted in The Times (16 July 1892), p. 9
  • The King...seems to have unburdened himself to Lord Morley. In the course of their discussions His Majesty pleased him greatly by observing that he looked upon him as the only representative of the old Whigs left in the Cabinet, and certainly, in so far as Whiggism is an attitude of mind, His Majesty's judgment was not wanting in acuteness.
    • Almeric FitzRoy's diary (7 October 1912), quoted in Almeric Fitzroy, Memoirs: Volume II (n.d.), p. 494
  • Lord Morley deplored Winston's Bradford speech... He took particular exception to the phrase “there are worse things than bloodshed,” which he described as “a platitude, and worse, a Tory platitude.” The subject cropped up at luncheon in Downing Street, when the Prime Minister instanced the enthusiasm with which the speech was received, and the cheers with which Winston was greeted in the House of Commons, as a proof that it corresponded to the feelings of the party. Lord Morley reminded them that a great Prime Minister, who once lived in that house, on being told of the popular delirium with which the declaration of war had been welcomed, replied, “They are ringing the bells now, but in no long time they will be wringing their hands.” He went on to say, so he told me, “You may talk as you like of bloodshed, but I venture to say this, that the first blood shed in Ireland, not in mere civil commotion, but in conflict between the Ulster Volunteers and the forces of the Crown, will mean the end of Home Rule.” Such a declaration from such a source has tremendous significance, but will it have much effect?
    • Almeric FitzRoy's diary (17 March 1914), quoted in Almeric Fitzroy, Memoirs: Volume II (n.d.), p. 541
  • The menace of European war has come with startling abruptness. I received this afternoon the intimation that the Cabinet had decided to initiate the precautionary stage in the preparations for war. In a few minutes' talk I had with Lord Morley, I discovered that the step met with his keen disapproval, and that, upon its being followed by mobilisation, he would cease to incur further ministerial responsibility. Sympathetic as he is towards France in her secular struggle with Germany in the world of ideas, he cannot brook this country becoming a party to what he regards as a Slavonic movement against Teuton influence. Russia and all she stands for is still for him identified with barbarism, and he looks upon any tendency hostile to Germany that has its roots in Slav aspirations as prejudicial to the interests of civilisation.
    • Almeric FitzRoy's diary (29 July 1914), quoted in Almeric Fitzroy, Memoirs: Volume II (n.d.), p. 557
  • Twelve months ago you were below the gangway, now you are one of the foremost, most popular, most trusted leaders of the Party, after having discharged with signal ability and success the duties of the most difficult post in the Cabinet. I doubt whether our political history has any parallel for so swift, so sure, so well-deserved a rise. The future of the Liberal party will (if your life is spared), be coloured, influenced, controlled by you.
    • Henry Fowler to John Morley (23 December 1886), quoted in R. H. Fowler The Life of Henry Hartley Fowler, First Viscount Wolverhampton, G.C.S.I (1912), pp. 212–13
  • I came across the articles written by John Morley in the Pall Mall Gazette during the Irish coercion period of Gladstone's Government. When read in sequence they seemed irresistible in their argument that coercion was not, under modern conditions, possible as a permanent system of governing Ireland. The only alternative was Home Rule. I was intellectually convinced: Morley seemed to be clear and consistent in his thought about Ireland.
    • Edward Grey, Twenty-Five Years, 1892–1916, Volume I (1925), pp. xxvii-xxviii
  • The best stroke the labour party could do would be to defeat Mr. Morley. He did not think Mr. Morley dishonest, or lacking in moral character or backbone, but his ideas were antagonistic to the new ideas which were beginning to find vent amongst the common people, became a duty to prove to Mr. Morley and those who thought with him that the old school of Liberalism had had its day, and must now give place to the new... Mr. Morley was honest, but that was not everything. Mr. Morley was too much a man of the study, and was not in touch with his working-class fellows, and it was their sacred duty to try and bring about his defeat.
    • Keir Hardie, speech to the independent labour party in Newcastle (15 July 1892), quoted in The Times (16 July 1892), p. 9
  • If only Morley had let politics alone, he might have been the Gibbon of his age.
    • Thomas Hardy's remark to John Hartman Morgan, quoted in J. H. Morgan, John, Viscount Morley: An Appreciation and Some Reminiscences (1924), p. 31
  • The conversation passed into politics and particularly upon Germany, and I was astonished to find how “unrealistic” (as I thought) his views were about Germany's attitude (this was in 1909) and how far more he leaned towards Goethe than towards Comte. A three hours' talk with Morley was a delightful experience.
  • It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the more typically English a writer on political or social problems then appeared to the world, the more is he to-day forgotten in his own country. Men like Lord Morley or Henry Sidgwick, Lord Acton or A. V. Dicey, who were then admired in the world at large as outstanding examples of the political wisdom of liberal England, are to the present generation largely obsolete Victorians.
  • It is the end of a chapter and of a life which has consoled me more than anything else for the horrors, cruelties, and perversities of this hateful age with its false prophets and professional impostors, its office seekers, profiteers, wirepullers – all obsequious worshippers of Force, Popularity, and Pelf.
  • It was pleasant and interesting to be in almost daily intercourse with a friend with whom I had much in common, and whose conversation, when he was in the humour for it, was most agreeable to listen to. But he was not always in the humour, for, as his Parliamentary Under-Secretary, J. E. Ellis, said to me in describing him, he was "a man of moods." No truer word was ever spoken, and he had his bad days as well as his good ones. These variations in his temperature were naturally inconvenient, and made him less pleasant as a chief than he ought to have been: he was charming, but there was a sense of insecurity. Of all the Secretaries of State under whom I served he was the most intellectually brilliant, and, though he took to politics rather late in life, he had speedily raised himself to a conspicuous position; but he certainly was, in my opinion, born to be a thinker and a writer rather than a practical statesman and administrator.
  • He liked the men who really count and the lamp of reason burned the more brightly for his presence. Some of his work seems to me very first rate — in literary criticism the essays on Macaulay and Carlyle, in political criticism those on Maine and Condorcet.
    • Harold Laski (1924), quoted in Holmes-Laski Letters: The Correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Harold J. Laski, 1916-1935: Volume I (1953), p. 542
  • I do wish Morley had lived a few months longer to see MacDonald Prime Minister. The old man had talked of it so eagerly and so often.
    • Harold Laski (1924), quoted in Holmes-Laski Letters: The Correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Harold J. Laski, 1916-1935: Volume I (1953), p. 570
  • Morley was the last of the great, the true, Liberals.
  • This inner conflict between the man of letters and the man of politics in Morley pursued and paralysed him all through his life.
    • T. P. O'Connor, Memories of an Old Parliamentarian, Volume I (1929), p. 294
  • In action he was sometimes wanting in courage and in promptitude, but he never shrank from taking any risk on what he considered a matter of basic principle. He used to laugh at the epithet of “Honest John”, but he fully deserved it; with all his little weaknesses and his small and human vanities, he was emphatically a noble figure. He hated cruelty, he was humane, he was consistent. He might see the faults of the poor, but in heart and soul he was always with them. When I was talking to him once about the tragedies that lay behind the brilliant surface of aristocratic society, and suggested what material these things might give to a dramatist or novelist of genius, Morley almost impatiently replied that he took no interest in their rotten joys or their rotten sorrows; he was more interested in the poor wage-earner, who had to keep wife and children on scanty and uncertain resources. To sum him up; he failed, so far as he did fail, because he was a philosopher and not a bruiser.
    • T. P. O'Connor, Memories of an Old Parliamentarian, Volume I (1929), pp. 296–297
  • Christianity represents man as being by nature sinful, and the evils of the world as being due to the inherent imperfections in his nature. This doctrine Mr. Morley regards as entirely fatal to an efficacious doctrine of progress.
  • Mr Morley has never entirely deserted literature for politics; he has brought his political training to bear on literature; witness his admirable studies of Sir Robert Walpole and of Oliver Cromwell, books which abound in wise saws and pregnant reflections that could never have been inspired in the study. They are the fine flower of political experience, ripened in the senate and the market-place, quickened by the habit of dealing directly with men, and perfected by rare literary skill.
  • The effect of Peel's conduct in 1829 and 1846 has always seemed to me deplorable. The only person among our statesmen who has a right to propose a Home Rule Bill is Mr. John Morley.
    • Lord Salisbury to Malcolm MacColl (10 December 1886), quoted in G. W. E. Russell, Malcolm MacColl: Memoirs and Correspondence (1914), pp. 280–81
  • After my return to Parliament as member for Blackburn, my wife and I became friendly with Lord Morley, who was a native of the town. We often visited him at his house in Wimbledon, and our conversations with him remain among the happiest of our recollections. He was a charming conversationalist, and his penetrating comments on his political contemporaries were illustrating and fascinating.
    • Philip Snowden, An Autobiography. Volume One, 1864–1919 (1934), pp. 444-445
  • In the afternoon we journeyed down with Haldane to see Lord Morley, who for some unexplained reason desired to see us. We have never been on terms of friendship with John Morley. We have neither liked nor disliked him; and we have always assumed a similar attitude on his part. But it seems that in his political prime he was acutely aware of the socialist criticism of Gladstonian politics and deeply resented it. To-day he is a dignified, benevolent and infirm old man, pathetically anxious to make his peace with the new world of social democracy. In his old age he is more open-minded to the new thought than he was when he had the vigour to grasp its meaning. The catastrophe of the great war has compelled his pacifist soul to seek comradeship in the international socialist movement... As Sidney said goodbye he said wistfully “There is no malice between us?”—as if our visit had been one of reconciliation. We have been quite unconscious of any relationship—good or bad—between us and him.
    • Beatrice Webb's diary entry for early 1919, quoted in M. I. Cole (ed.), Beatrice Webb's Diaries 1912–1924 (1952), p. 158